The Emergence and Reception of Rock and Roll in America

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The emergence and reception of rock and roll in America back in the 1950s had a significant influence on the people’ culture. Glenn Altschuler’s book, “All Shook Up: How Rock ‘N’ Roll Changed America,” argues that “Rock n’ roll was a national pastime, a powerhouse in American popular culture” (131). The book describes the effects that this music had, especially to the teens. This essay expands on the books three arguments, which include the impact of rock n’ roll on racism, sexuality, romance, and generational identity. The essay also explores the relevance of the book in exploring the American culture in the 1950s


            Altschuler argues that rock n’ roll in helped in fighting against racism in America. In the 1950s, blacks were not allowed to attend the same schools as the white in the southern states (Altschuler 37). The white and blacks could dance together and find common ground between them. Altschuler states that “The music emboldened African Americans to take to the streets in search of racial equality” (36). Also, some artists stated that “This is a fight that none of us can escape. We unite you join us in a fight against racism…” (41). Rock n’ roll music became popular, and so did the black artists.

Romance and Sex

            Altschuler’s book also reveals the aspect of sex and romance among the Americans in the 1950s. According to the author, the genre introduce division among generations, which helped the teens to separate themselves from the others. Altschuler argues that “Rock n’ roll transformed popular culture in the United States, and rattled the reticent by pushing sexuality into the public arena” (34). Also, an artist like Elvis demonstrated romance in their lines (92). Youngsters and School Boys compiled songs exclusively for romance, which included “Teenager’s Romance,” “Teenage Crush,” “Young Love” and “So Young.” Thus, the genre illustrates the level of sexuality and romance in the American 1950s (Altschuler 63).

Generational Identity

            Altschuler argues that “The music played a crucial role, however, in fostering intra-generation identity” (185). Most evitable among these identities are the teens, whom since them have always separated their character and roles from the elderly in the society. The music led to the emergence of the youth or teenage culture, which had its norms and institutions. The music introduced significant conflict between the teens and their parents. Aging teens resisted their parents’ authority and became more sexually audacious. They often consulted each other on the dressing modes, when to study and, watch or listen to and what places to visit at Saturday nights (Altschuler 185). There emerged a separate market for the teens.


            In conclusion, the emergence of Rock n’ Roll demonstrates the American response to racism, generation identity, sexuality and romance on the 1950s. I would recommend one to read the book to understand other cultural aspects discussed. The book also outlines the effect of specific artists and their music on culture. Thus, the reader will understand the American culture in the decade, with relevant examples that will further enforce the understanding.

Work Cited

Altschuler, Glenn C. All Shook Up: How Rock 'N' Roll Changed America. [Oxford University     Press, 2003].

November 13, 2023


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Rock Music

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